Divine Love Roaring Down the Highway

Dear friends and family,

“Divine Love” is roaring down the Nairobi-Mombasa Highway. It’s the name
printed above the dashboard of one of the many trucks coming from the port
town to Kenya’s capital city. Many of the trucks down this road are
tattooed with such names. It’s Friday afternoon and I am on my way to
Lion’s Bluff eco-lodge nestled in Tsavo West National Park to enjoy a
safari adventure. Windows are rolled down and the wind and dust are
blowing in my face and hair. I love the open spaces, but here the eyes
itch because of the dust peeling off the unfinished shoulders of the road.
I am happy until we hit a town called Emali, about two hours into our
trip. There some vendor transporting his ration of onions decides to bolt
in front of our vehicle, unexpectedly, to cross the highway. William, our
driver, acting quickly, hits the breaks and spares the vendor, but the car
behind us (an aid agency vehicle at that) was travelling to close, so in a
blink of an eye, our vehicle is struck and our rear window is no more.
Luckily no one is hurt, but we are all a bit shaken. We end up waiting for
William for close to 2 hours on this stretch of highway while he sets off
to the previous town to find a police officer who will come and sort out
this mess. During this time, a woman with a young child approaches us and
introduces herself as William’s cousin. What are the odds of this
happening in this exact space? Her little boy is called Elvis so we
delight ourselves feeding him banana and playing some games as we wait for
the police. Kenya is not known for efficient bureaucracy and I get to
witness this first hand when the police officer decides to show up. Kenyan
police are corrupt, and this one is no different. He can sniff cash so
bribes William and the driver of the other vehicle roughly $25 each to
avoid having the vehicles impounded. This doesn’t make any sense at all,
and soon I realize this isn’t the point. After that drama, we set out
again, but our vehicle has taken a beating. We have taped a plastic sheet
on the back of the car and now we are ready to finally hit the road again.
At this point, I am feeling impatient and just want to get to our
destination. Well, the remainder of the journey takes another 4 and half
hours, with the last two hours on very rough gravel road. By the time we
get to the lodge at 10PM, we’ve been on the road for 10 hours. This for a
400 km trek. Anyhow, all of this is forgotten once I get a look at the
panoramic view from Lion’s Bluff. It is expansive African savannah until
the eye can see. It is quiet and the air is fresh. I find my inner zen
again.

Two herds of elephants grace us with their presence the next afternoon. We
are on a game drive, and we witness one herd of 40 elephants vying for
water from this pond in the middle of the bush. Once they have their fill
of water, they gradually move their way out to make way for a second and
smaller herd. We spend about an hour watching these creatures spoon the
liquid into their trunks. At one point, a couple catch a glimpse of the
tourists with their cameras, and stare at us straight on. No one moves or
utters a word, and soon the elephants have lost interest in our presence
and return to their watering hole. As the elephants move away in search of
their new pasture, I admire their sense of order in their movements and
cohesion, all lined up in a logical line. Once the elephants disappear
from view, the game drivers open up the cooler and we relish in our own
liquid. Beer and wine.

My accommodation is a thatch roof tent hut elevated above an escarpment
overlooking the savannah with the Taita Hills and Mount Kilimanjaro way
out in the distance. It is overcast so the view of the iconic mountain
range is faint, but nonetheless there is something magical in the air.
There are lizards all over this place, and I am afraid to step on them as
I walk down the steps to my hut. The frame of the hut is wood, and the
canvass supports the walls. They are built to blend into the natural
environment. We set out on a bush walk yesterday morning at 6AM to explore
the land of the lions, gazelle and water buffalo. We see gazelle from afar
and luckily we don’t come across any lions. About an hour into our walk,
some of the lodge staff have set up a breakfast table. It is coffee, eggs
and toast in the middle of the African bush! Surreal and I think to myself
the lions don’t have it this easy.

Back to Nairobi last night and I am now into my last week here. On
Thursday, I have a farewell diner with High Commission colleagues, then on
Saturday morning (very early!) I set out for a climb up Mount Longonot, a
dormant volcano that reaches closes to 3,000 metres, before enduring a 24
hour journey back home late on Saturday night. Le temps passe. And soon, I
will be back in my Ottawa cocoon. Until then, take it easy and I look
forward to reconnecting with you all very soon!!

Carole

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